Jeff Sessions Unforgets the Discussions with Russians He Twice Swore He Didn’t Know About

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On Monday at the Intercept and yesterday on Democracy Now, I pointed out that the George Papadopoulos plea showed that Jeff Sessions continues to lie under oath about what he knows about Trump campaign surrogates interacting with Russians.

Sessions has repeatedly testified to the Senate that he knows nothing about any collusion with the Russians. (Though in his most recent appearance, he categorized that narrowly by saying he did not “conspire with Russia or an agent of the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election.”)

But the Papadopoulos plea shows that Sessions — then acting as Trump’s top foreign policy adviser — was in a March 31, 2016, meeting with Trump, at which Papadopoulos explained “he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.”

[snip]

Sessions’s claims about such meetings came in sworn testimony to the Senate. During his confirmation process, Sessions was asked a key question by Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn.: “If there is any evidence that anyone affiliated with the Trump campaign communicated with the Russian government in the course of this campaign, what will you do?”

“Senator Franken, I’m not aware of any of those activities,” Sessions responded. “I have been called a surrogate at a time or two in that campaign and I didn’t have — did not have communications with the Russians, and I’m unable to comment on it.”

The question, however, was about Sessions’s knowledge of such communications, and we now know he was in a meeting in which they were discussed.

More recently, on October 18, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., asked Sessions a series of questions about his knowledge of interactions with Russians, including whether he had discussed emails with Russian officials since the campaign. To that question, Sessions said he “did not recall.”

Franken then asked, in an attempt to clarify the confirmation questions, “You don’t believe that surrogates from the Trump campaign had communications with the Russians?”

“I did not — and I’m not aware of anyone else that did. I don’t believe that it happened,” said the attorney general whose own department had, two weeks earlier, already gotten a guilty plea from a campaign surrogate describing such discussions with Russians.

Now that other media outlets have caught up with the significance of the March 31 meeting, there have been a number of stories that make it clear Jeff Sessions has now unforgotten the outreach to Russia he twice swore he didn’t remember.

In this telling, Sessions was the hero of the moment, insisting that the campaign not pursue a meeting with Putin, while Trump was more ambivalent.

Candidate Donald Trump did not dismiss the idea of arranging a meeting with Russia’s president when it was suggested in a meeting with his campaign foreign policy advisers last year, according to a person in the room.

The idea was raised by George Papadopoulos as he introduced himself at a March 2016 meeting of the Republican candidate’s foreign policy advisers, according to a court filing.
“He didn’t say yes and he didn’t say no,” the official said, declining to be more specific about Trump’s response to Papadopoulos.
But the chairman of Trump’s national security team, then Alabama senator and now attorney general Jeff Sessions, shut down the idea of a Putin meeting at the March 31, 2016, gathering, according to the source. His reaction was confirmed with another source who had discussed Session’s role.

If the first sourcing here — one of the nine men in the room — didn’t indicate these leaks came from Sessions’ orbit, the second one — a source who discussed Sessions’ role — makes it clear.

Let’s pretend for the moment that this telling is accurate, and that then Senator Sessions recognized the legal and political risk of cozying up to Vladimir Putin (and not just another attempt to telegraph what someone has testified or plans to testify to the grand jury).

If that’s correct, that means Sessions has twice lied under oath about knowing about efforts to reach out to the Russians. And he did so knowing that the President was sort of cool with the idea.

That is, it would suggest Sessions’ lies, given under oath, were designed to protect the President.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including Vice, Motherboard, the Nation, the Atlantic, Al Jazeera, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse in Grand Rapids, MI.

47 replies
    • NorskieFlamethrower says:

      IMO Citizen bmaz, the little troll from under the bridge at Selma has bigger problems than a few false statements. If Headmaster Mueller got any of the participants to independently confirm that Papadapolous pitched the idea of a meeting in the Kremlin to the crowd that included Sessions and the Orange One, then he’s potentially lookin’ at conspiracy against the United States as well as lying.  And I’m not impressed with the anonymous self-serving  statements (or should that read “elf serving” statements) that are quoted indicating that Sessions tried to keep the campaign out of it. Ever since Monday morning I’ve been hummimg “So long it’s been good to know ya…” over and over as I console my Trump-voting neighbors by tellin ’em that they won’t be sent to Gitmo just for voting for the bastard. Crank up the popcorn popper brothers and sisters, I’ll bring the butter and carmel.

  1. Big Bob W says:

    Help out a neophyte here:

    1) Due to the fact that Sessions clearly lied under oath, what legal action(s) can thus be taken against Sessions, and by whom?

    2) Can the average citizen bring a lawsuit in this matter (perhaps EW or bmaz…)?

    3) What about Al Franken?  Is he able to initiate legal proceedings against Sessions?

    Inquiring minds want to know!

  2. orionATL says:

    well now, ew has jumped right over the p. r. bullshit designed to protect sessions from a legitimate perjury charge (what sessions himself did or didn’t do), and landed on the other side of the scrum to ask the relevant question:

    did sessions know about, or hear about, or “see” any efforts by the trump campaign to contact russian nationals or government in 2016?

    the evidence says yes he did know, or hear, or “see” such efforts.

    and that doesn’t even begin to touch on his meetings with ambassador kisylyak.

    discovery seems warranted here, especially campaign documents.

  3. What Constitution? says:

    The photo Trump himself posted showing that March 31, 2016 meeting shows what, nine men at the table, including Trump and Sessions and George Pap (who was there either serving coffee or to explain how he could facilitate a meeting with Putin, take your choice). Since Trump’s version is dependent upon making Pap a meaningless extra, who exactly are the other people at that table? Anyone else there because they wore a coat and tie to work that morning?

  4. orionATL says:

    i’d guess by now both sessions and trump know that the little elf has some good insurance against being fired by el generalissimo.

  5. JW says:

    Session obviously was left in the dark about the plea of Papadopoulous.His selective amnesia will miraculously will enable him to recall but it will provide him with a different recollection of the facts.The ancient Greeks would be proud of the high degree of sophistry of this administration and it’s surrogates.

  6. Steven Anderson says:

    Answers about sessions correct. However, I would add one other, but very remote, possibility. If it is determined that Sessions lied under oath (i.e., established by a legal body such as Congress or a Court or if Sessions every admits he did as part of a plea deal), the Alabama Bar would probably need to sanction him under their ethics code. However, this is the same state that gives us Roy Moore as the GOP Senate candidate.

  7. Willis Warren says:

    Mueller is using Papadopoulos to get to the fat man, then will use the fat man to get to Sessions, and then… well, you know who.

    I imagine he has enough to incriminate the President already, he’s just going to get as much as possible.

  8. Willis Warren says:

    I also suspect that somewhere in the Papadopoulos files there’s an admission that a plan was made to change the story about the Clinton emails to “donations” and that these surfaced in the dossier as plants about payments and in the Trump friendly media as uranium.

    This would suggest another conspiracy charge is perhaps already sealed or in the works to cover up the purpose of the Trump tower meetings. And we know that Trump’s attempt to change Jr’s story to “adoptions” proves that there was a cover story.

    It’s conjecture, I know, but the evidence supports this or something very similar.

  9. orionATL says:

    i’ve wondered from time to time if there might be a group of close trump supporters who are “hosting” trump campaign officials who might be interesting to mueller. this story gives a sense of what such a network might do:

    https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/manafort-gates-top-trump-campaign-aides-accused-partners-crime-n815701

    “… but a short time later, Gates was fired from his consultant job at Colony Northstar, a company headed by Trump confidante Tom Barrack, a company spokesman told NBC News…”

    i don’t have any idea what the actual working relationship was between these two men.

    space life form previously brought to our attention (and recently reminded us of) a relationship between a trump economic council adviser and, i believe, manafort, but my recollection here is not solid.

    might there be other examples? whether such a network of benefactors of former campaign aides exists or not i can’t say.

  10. gedouttahear says:

    I think that Sessions still has one very weak reed to defend himself against a perjury charge, that being that even though he heard people “claim” in the campaign (e.g. papadopolous at the March 31 meeting) of having had contact with russians, he didn’t believe that they had such contact. ““I did not — and I’m not aware of anyone else that did. I don’t believe that it happened.

    I think that Sessions recusing himself from the Russia investigation was based on his conclusion that though that recusal would weaken trump’s defenses, it was a first step in Sessions being able to defend himself. That’s what probably caused trump to lose it when Sessions recused himself.

    I suspect that trump’s family members have enough of the gory details to bring trump and his admin down, but I suspect they will go down with the ship to protect daddy/daddy-in-law. But as much of a suck-up as Sessions was/is, I don’t think he’ll sacrifice himself (though it’s a bit late) for trump. Therefore, I think Sessions is the biggest fish to be flipped. C’mon boy, flip!

  11. Rugger9 says:

    I would suspect many of these issues will become clearer over the next week.  Barrack is an old chum and Kaiser supporter frequently seen at the WH (it appears he functions as an unofficial minister without portfolio, useful for setting up back channel discussions, for example) who had Gates in his entourage during his visits.  I would suspect that Barrack will be interviewed by Mueller shortly if he hasn’t been already.

    Marcy had referred to an “Indictment A” target in her interview with Amy Goodman who is not yet named.  I suspect after Victoria’s attempt to align the story line and/or define the scope about Clovis (see the previous post) Mueller may put this indictment in the public record as well especially if it is Clovis.

    With that said, Sessions will have some bruising questions at his next Intel and Judiciary committee hearings.  He may also be forced to resign if too much more comes out, especially if it ties to the Russians.  Note I said “may” because GOP types like Sessions have no shame.

    Another question to be answered by future indictments, etc., is who Papadopoulos talked to while wired.  The WH has an estimate about when he started after his plea deal until Monday’s announcement for assuming GP had a wire on all of his discussions.  That probably will scare them once they put the list together.

    • Willis Warren says:

      Yeah, that’s not very good analysis.  A pardon would merely flip this case to local.  His only option is to cooperate.  By dropping the Papadope confession, he basically told Manafort we have a LOT more on you than this.

      • Avattoir says:

        In discussing Manafort’s ‘options’, are we now back into the 2006 discussion concerning Scooter Libby and preznit GWB’s options of pardon or commute?

        As pardon doesn’t foreclose Manafort’s being called on to testify, and only commute prevents that, does that paint of picture of Mueller’s magnifying glass focusing sunlight on Manafort for months & months to come?

        • bmaz says:

          Here is my $0.02: Yes, we are back there, but with far, far, higher stakes. And far less competent checks and balances that our system of Constitutional governance depends on. It was never a perfect system, but it DID depend on the intellectual integrity and morality of the federal and state governors. Even when they disagreed, the Constitution relies on politicians acting in good faith.

          That presumption has long since been breeched, and we are toiling in the breech. I am old, but I am very worried about the United States and world my child, and her children, will live in.

           

          • orionATL says:

            with good reason.

            that’s why uncovering what happened in 2016 is so important. leaving russians entirely aside, the way some republican supporters and politicians played the election game involved substantial violation of rules we have come to trust will be observed and thus was a breech of trust with us citizens.

            a few specifics to go with these abstract comments:

            robert mercer, stephen bannon, facebook, twitter, google/utube, trump (taxes), repub congressional leaders, koch octopus,

  12. Rapier says:

    Lying to congress is practically a sacred duty to these guys.  Such is out of the purview of the JD anyway I would think. I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong on that. It’s up to congress. No need to guess about what happens there.

  13. Bay State Librul says:

    The White House “Horrors”

    The last rogue Attorney General was John Mitchell. He wasn’t AG at the time, but was found guilty of conspiracy, obstruction of justice, and perjury and sentenced to two and a half to eight years in prison for his role in the Watergate break-in and cover-up, which he dubbed the “White House Horrors.”

    We are reliving the horrors.

  14. NorskieFlamethrower says:

    IMO Citizen bmaz, the little troll from under the bridge at Selma has bigger problems than a few false statements. If Headmaster Mueller got any of the participants to independently confirm that Papadapolous pitched the idea of a meeting in the Kremlin to the crowd that included Sessions and the Orange One, then he’s potentially lookin’ at conspiracy against the United States as well as lying.  And I’m not impressed with the anonymous self-serving  statements (or should that read “elf serving” statements) that are quoted indicating that Sessions tried to keep the campaign out of it. Ever since Monday morning I’ve been hummimg “So long it’s been good to know ya…” over and over as I console my Trump-voting neighbors by tellin ’em that they won’t be sent to Gitmo just for voting for the bastard. Crank up the popcorn popper brothers and sisters, I’ll bring the butter and carmel.

  15. Rugger9 says:

    SHS presser:

    NYC attack, must purge the furriners.  Safety of Americans first as his oath (nope, that’s not in the Constitution, Sarah).

    Schumer tweetstorm was the first Q.  Extreme vetting is back, but neglected to mention Schumer didn’t vote for the program where the Uzbekistan person, she’s walking back on”blaming” Schumer.  The Q about why Uzbekistan was not on the restricted list is interesting, because IIRC TrumpOrg has a building there or in progress.  More details about “extreme vetting”.  The suspect is likely to be classified as an “enemy combatant” (the WH says they consider him as one).  There have been two Qs about why the Kaiser said it wasn’t OK to politicize the LV shooting but it’s OK to go after Schumer now.  The Gang of 8 only covered part of the problem.

    A national ID card for making “extreme vetting” work?  Papers, please…

    Papadopoulos meeting: Trump doesn’t recall GP’s statement.

    Won’t “relitigate” the Civil War or history.  The word slavery finally was uttered in that it was “disgusting that anyone in this building would support slavery”.

    GTMO future is being brought up, no news.

    McMaster will cover the trip briefing tomorrow.

    Takeaway, aside from the one small question on GP, nothing about Clovis or anything substantial on Mueller’s probe.  The useless WH press corps is letting Trump get away with it again.

     

     

     

    • harpie says:

      Rugger9,

      That’s not quite what SHS said wrt April D. Ryan’s question about slavery. She said:

      [ 0:55] I think it is disgusting and absurd to suggest that anyone inside of this building would support slavery.

      • Rugger9 says:

        Kind of a distinction without a real difference.  I transcribed as well as I could real time from the video.  It was nonetheless the first time she uttered the S-word.  Baby steps, I guess.

  16. Rugger9 says:

    OT, the Asian collisions investigation move along.

    https://www.rawstory.com/2017/11/crashes-involving-us-destroyers-were-avoidable-navy-investigations/

    I’m not sure I would agree with some of the conclusions (lack of familiarity with the control module?  These are GTs and it’s almost all digital now) and as I figured they took the blame for the navigational issues.  However, no excuses.  PacFleet and the chief of Naval training I think will have their careers end as well since this issue covered basic stuff every midshipman is taught.

    Just i time for the Kaiser’s visit.

    • orionATL says:

      i’ve been very interested in the accidents and the impending report, too.

      1- an extraordinary number of very senior officers admirals were “fired”

      2- a key issue of punishing work week (100 hrs) was addressed head on. i first saw this issue raised earlier in a press comment by a retired admiral. he did not mince words; the sailors were being exhausted by their duty hours and commanders doing nothing about.

      3 – a comment about what i will call “lack of seamanship or navigational skills”.

      4 – what is ignored in the report, at least directly, is the fact that some sailors were left to drown when flooding hatches were sealed. that’s not why you join the navy. it may have been a matter of necessity as in a submarine, but it may have been panic-induced by poor training.

      • Rugger9 says:

        Covering the points from my perspective:

        1. Not surprising at all, it encourages attention to detail and some effort at enforcement of compliance.  Long ago, when the HMAS Melbourne sliced through the USS Evans the watch team on the Evans had specifically disobeyed standing orders to contact the old man if they got within 1000 yards of the carrier (“it’s too close for a mo board solution, we’ll eyeball her in”) but that did not get the captain of the Evans off of the hook at all.  He was the one who signed off that these men were ready and able to stand watch.  Same for the admirals, the responsibility for fleet performance cannot be delegated, only the authority.

        2.  I’ll agree, the hours are ridiculous but part of the price of 24/7 at sea coverage.  As a principal engineering assistant I would average 2-3 hours a sleep at sea between watches (2-3 per day, worse if we were in port-and-starboards), running the division, training, riding herd on my work packages, eating, exercise, etc., but one can settle into the routine.  This is made harder by the limited number of men (and women) available either due to staffing or qualifications (not everyone can run a nuclear power plant).  Merchant Marine ships do not have as many watch stations but also not as many demands placed upon their work as a rule (some are much busier than others).

        3. Training effectiveness by another name.  It might be more of a “taking a  shortcut” issue to respond to an order.   Many years ago, a destroyer captain was ordered out of San Diego to a meeting point in 30 minutes, something not possible from the naval base where he was, so he rooster-tailed it out and the Navy was fined by the USCG for excessive speed and sued for the damage to the yachts caused by the wake that resulted.  He made it on time, however, so not all was lost.

        4.  I’m not so sure that blanket statement can be made.  Remember we do train (a lot) on damage control which is why the USS Stark survived her Exocet hit (the HMS Sheffield did not) as well as the USS Cole after the bombing in Aden.   It also assumes the spaces were not already flooded or inaccessible which is not a fact in evidence.  In any case the Zebra boundaries will be set when General Quarters (GQ) is called away.  This means every watertight boundary is set automatically and then search / repair parties would then go out to see what is damaged and what can be saved.  The ship’s safety comes first, where else will one go if the ship goes down?  There is no way a shipmate would be left behind otherwise.  Since I mentioned the Evans before, several sailors were killed because their access was blocked due to the damage from the collision making the hatch unable to be opened.  Something similar would be expected any time there is a collision due to falling stuff or warping of the hull.  I doubt there was panic (otherwise this would have been much worse) but collisions at night without warning are not routine and it may have taken another few seconds to get going to their GQ stations but that would be it.

  17. HMoe says:

    A bit of advice to inmate-to-be Sessions: Even in the Federal Pen for white collar criminals, nobody picks up the soap…or a quarter.

    • bmaz says:

      There are about a hundred jokes criminal defense attorneys have had over the years in this regard. None of them appropriate to repeat. But, yes.

  18. maybe ryan says:

    Brief threadjack.  Sorry.  Posting in this article since its comments have already matured.

    Anyway, check out the comments on the New York Times story “Driver in Manhattan Attack Planned for Months.”

    The top-recommended comment is literally nonsense.  It purports to be a lament from a hard-working immigrant “serving American people in a under served community” who has been waiting for 7 years for a green card.  But of course, that can’t be under current immigration law.  You can’t work here without a green card, and if you’re here and working illegally, you can’t apply for a green card.

    I don’t care about immigration law here.  My point is different.  The situation is nonsense, clearly false.  It also runs utterly counter to the beliefs of most Times subscribers.   But it has 357 recommends, the next highest getting 328.

    I believe Times subscription log-ins have been hacked for the purpose of pushing sentiments in the comments.  If I were them, I’d be getting in touch with the actual subscribers behind those recommends to see whether they really made them.  Since recommends aren’t shown, and even comments are pseudonymous in most cases, if you got account credentials it would be pretty easy to subvert the system.

    In the context of the Twitter/Google/FB testimony, it’s interesting to see what I believe to be similar efforts going on in the Times comments.

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